February 11, 2016

Emmett's Birth Story & Finding Me Again

2015 was a big year for me. It was the year I learned how to be a mother. It feels funny writing that because I never expected to have to "learn." I've always wanted children and at some point in my life, I thought I wanted as many as six. I always thought motherhood would come naturally to me. What's there to learn right? So when I had Emmett, I was in for quite a shocker.

Emmett was born 2 weeks past his due date and by that time, I was so ready to give birth. I had a detailed birth plan, I was practicing my birth yoga religiously, the nursery was ready, I was ingesting red leaf tea and primrose oil to encourage labor, I had my hospital bag packed, and Robert and I had even picked out what we wanted Emmett's first song to be. Ha! Was I na├»ve. Emmett refused to come and I had to be induced. I was in labor for 25 hours, 5 of which I pushed with everything I had, but Emmett was completely stuck and at 5:45pm on November 25th, 2014, our son was born via C-section. My birth plan had failed and I felt I had failed. While I lay on the operating table with my insides exposed, Robert, who had promised me he would not leave our son alone for even a second and would try to do skin to skin as best as he could, left with Emmett to the nursery. In the nursery was where Emmett would hear his first song, All About The Bass. UGH. That wasn't what we'd picked for him! How could his first song be so out of our control?!? As it turned out, we should've realized at that point that Emmett's first song would be similar to many of our parenting experiences- out of our control no matter what we did.
Robert promised me he'd do skin to skin but the hospital wouldn't let him so he insisted on holding Emmett's hand and never let go.
Ten days after Emmett was born, my family was at our home to meet our newest member and I wasn't feeling too hot. While everyone was sitting at the dining table enjoying lunch, I was upstairs in my bathroom watching pus & blood pour from my C-section incision. I took a deep breath, tried not to pass out, and grabbed my phone to call my doctor. Minutes later, half my family left while my parents, Robert & Emmett piled into our car and headed to the hospital. Once again, I felt like I was letting my son down. Not only wasn't I able to give him the birth I so desperately wanted, at 10 days old I'd now be subjecting him to all the gross germs of a hospital emergency room. Why did we bring him? Because I was breastfeeding and he couldn't be away from me for more than two hours at a time. Hours, tests, an MRI and an ultrasound later, my doctor confirmed that I had an infection and at 2am I was rushed to surgery.
My dad caring for Emmett in the emergency room while I underwent testing.
It turns out that when an old incision is opened, it can't be closed. After surgery I was left with an open wound that would have to be closed with a special portable vacuum. I was put on strong antibiotics to continue fighting the infection and so I wasn't allowed to breastfeed. I had to pump and dump. My parents rushed to the store to buy Emmett 5 different kinds of bottles and formula for sensitive stomachs to be safe. Again, I felt like I failure. I couldn't breastfeed my son and because I had an open wound, I wasn't allowed to even lift him. Robert and my parents took turns sleeping at the hospital so that I could keep Emmett there with me. I remember Robert sleeping on the floor of my hospital room, waking up and going to his first day back at work after paternity leave. He didn't tell anyone what was going on because we wanted our privacy and sometimes having lots of people asking questions just makes it all more difficult. After work that day, he came right back and I remember thinking he looked so tired and sad that Emmett & I had to be there. My heart hurt.
After Robert's first day back at work, he came straight to the hospital to be with me and Emmett.
Five days later I was allowed to go home, attached to a vacuum, with instructions not to climb stairs, clean, lift my son, shower or leave my home. A nurse would come to my home every other day to change my bandages and clean out my vacuum. Publicly I was a happy new mother, juggling my new responsibilities with keeping my business going strong through the holiday season. In private, I was a mess. I was in pain, sleeping tons and unable to move around my own home, this wasn't how it was supposed to be. I went off the antibiotics and struggled to transition Emmett back to breastfeeding. The ESD Love Note necklace was featured in Better Home & Gardens and I had orders to fill, customers to make happy, a business to run. I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided I didn't need to take maternity leave. Next time, I'm taking leave for sure. Thankfully, I have an amazing mother who took an additional month off of work to stay and take care of us. I don't know what we would've done had she not been there and I know I'm so lucky that Emmett got to spend that time with his grandma. But part of me is still so sad that I didn't get to be his mother 100% of that time. I've spent so much of my energy since then trying to make it up to him, making sure he knows how much I love him.
Finally home but attached to a vacuum. You can see the hose coming out of my shirt in the picture. Excuse the wrong date stamp on my mom's camera!
We were so lucky to have my mom taking care of us for all of those weeks.
It may seem weird that I'm writing all of this now, almost 15 months after Emmett was born. But without putting it out there, it feels that a piece of me is missing in this puzzle and it's hard to move forward with writing my story. Every time I sit down to write, I feel tangled in this story and don't know where to start. So maybe now that I've shared it, I can move forward.  Once my wound closed, I was able to take on mothering full time and holy sh*t it's been a wild ride. Like I wrote in the beginning of this post, 2015 has been the year of learning how to be a mother. Learning how to read my son, to understand why he won't sleep through the night, why he won't eat this or will eat that. How to handle his temper tantrums, to teach him new words or how to express himself. And I'm learning who I am now. Before we had Emmett, I was Erica the runner, designer, business owner, artist, music lover, dance party starter, shower singing wife to Robert. But since Emmett, I am a mom first and there have been moments when that's been difficult to navigate. There are times when being a mom has felt second nature but so often it's been a struggle. I used to wake in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and start my day by answering ESD emails. But I can't do that when Emmett wakes me at 4am and demands my attention. Now my dance parties are with my son and to be honest, they're amazing. Watching him clap, stomp his feet and try to raise the roof is often the best part of my day. And watching my son grow is helping me accept that I haven't been a failure, I just don't have the control I once had and that's normal.

So I spent 2015 learning how to be mother and I'm going to spend 2016 finding me again, in my new context, my new world. I'm trying to teach myself how to do it all, but I find that I no longer believe in balance. Instead, I'm learning to let each part of my life take over fully when it demands my attention. When Emmett is with me, I'm 100% mom. When he's with Robert, or at daycare where he spends two days a week, napping or sleeping, I get to be a business owner and part time mom (let's be honest, moms never really turn that part of them off). That means I may not get to add that new style to my website the moment I think of it, or email that customer back five seconds after I get their message, but it lets me divide my time so I feel more in control. Like I said, I'm still figuring it all out. I don't have all the answers yet.

26 comments :

  1. Sweetie, I'm SO sorry that you ever felt like a failure. Motherhood isn't always rational (or maybe it's NEVER rational? When I held my first daughter for the first time I realized that I would throw myself in front of a bus to save her, without hesitation). You are amazing and while my heart is full of love and empathy for you, and for sharing your story, I hope that you are at peace with everything and just enjoying the time with your sweet boy.

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    1. Katy, thanks so much for the support. I've found not only peace but also the ability to focus on the wonderful parts too. They say that when you become a mom, you're heart is no longer yours and wow, how true that is! I hope you're enjoying your time with your beautiful daughter :)

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  2. You certainly put on a brave face. I am so glad you shared. So often I feel like the stories I share help me more than they help others, only to learn later just how much my story showed someone else they are not alone. That's what you have done here.

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    1. Ann, thank you. It was definitely helpful to read about other moms' struggles so that I knew I wasn't crazy or alone. I hope my story will help other moms as much as possible.

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  3. This is amazing. Kudos to you for sharing your challenges, your journey and your truth. It's never what we think it will be and navigating is what we will do for life. We will always want to do more and be sure that we are making the right decisions, but be confident that your heart as a mother will guide you. And you should ALWAYS lean on other moms because everyone's life looks clean and neat and perfect.. until you realize we are ALL a mess. xoxoxoxoxoxox Jen

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    1. Thank you Jen. It's amazing how much other moms I've never even met before became my lifeline. XO!

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  4. 1. You gave birth to your son, and 2. You nourished him. The end. My daughter was overdue and born via c-section. I was told that I did not give birth. I was told that I was poisoning her with enfamil because she hand tongue tie and couldn't feed. The lactation consultant in the hospital made me feel like garbage because I asked for the formula because I knew that she wasn't getting enough but they never even checked for tongue tie. You know what we have to do as moms: not give a f*ck about what other people think. Many of the reasons we are made to feel "inferior" because of c-sections, epidurals, formula and the like are because of external pressures imposed upon us. You know what, you're a great mother and so am I - our kids are happy, healthy, well nourished and we are doing our BEST to kick ass and take names at this job. Nowadays, I get all kinds of hell from people for working a really brutal corporate job with crazy hours- they want me to turn around and cry. I have cried. I have cried ont he train because i missed bedtime again and I worry that my little girl grows up with a grandmother and her dad and not me. Then I remember that I love her and the love is all I can give her- and that I am teaching her by example to be strong and resist outside pressures, as we have done since the moment she was born: resist the judgments that we want to put on ourselves with respect to how it should be and accept how it is! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Your comment made me sob like a baby! I wish people would keep their stupid uneducated opinions to themselves. It sounds like you're an amazing mom and an amazing role model for your little girl. She is a lucky girl!

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  5. You'll figure it out. You always do. <3

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  6. First, thank you so much for sharing your story. Currently I am young and single but for the longest time I have always said I wasn't made for motherhood and that I don't want children. Family and friends can't understand and who knows maybe things will change. What I learned from you is, if I do have a child, that we will figure it out. Your strength in this post truly amazing. Again, Mazel Tov on Emmett and I wish you E, and Robert a lifetime of health and happiness!

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    1. Tracy, I believe more than ever that if you know in your heart you don't want children, you shouldn't. I wanted 6 and now there are some days when I have no idea if I'm going to survive. Ok, I know I'll survive but holy crap it's hard. If you have a child, you will certainly figure it out but if you don't, that's just fine too. Of course I don't have to tell you that but I will anyway. You don't have to have a child to live a beautiful & fulfilling life! Thank you for your well wishes and right back atcha!!!

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  7. Thank you for sharing. I have a friend who had a similar birth experience and felt the same way. but now her boys (4!!!) are growing up to be amazing guys... It takes more than the first few weeks to create a great person, and you obviously have a wonderful supporting village, too. You are a fabulous mom creating fantastic memories/moments with your family. Keep on keeping on... You are inspiring!!!

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    1. Thank you for the support Elizabeth! Grateful for my village :)

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  8. Loved reading this although I know it must have sucked going through it. I'm with you on the entrepreneur - didn't think I needed a maternity leave - bandwagon. What was I thinking?

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    1. Oh my gosh, right?!? It seems we thought we were superheros. We should buy capes ;)

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  9. This is such an amazing post that so many women and families should/need to read! Good luck and thank you for sharing!

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  10. Oh Erica. I'm so sorry to hear that you went through so much in those early weeks/months with healing. There's so much I want to say here. I so get this - feeling like a failure, feeling lost, having no clue what you're doing, losing a sense of who you are and working really really hard to find that again. I had a really hard time after my first son was born. I didn't know what I was doing and I was so lost and withdrawn. I'm glad that you shared this because it's part of motherhood that we don't talk about. And I hope that by writing your story and sharing it you are able to move forward. Sending so much love to you!

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    1. Thanks Christine! I so appreciate the love & support. XO!

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  11. Thank you for this, Erica. I'm so sorry you felt like a failure or 'less than' for your early experiences with Emmett. It's amazing what hides behind smiles and the message we want others to see. I commend you for normalizing birth and motherhood by sharing your story, and hope this helps you feel closer to 'okay' with your own story.

    If you haven't yet found The Longest Shortest Time podcast - go. Now. When you run. I listened to about a dozen episodes while running my half-marathon last spring (and incidentally, cried through about half of it).

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    1. Thank you, I'll definitely check out the podcasts! And thanks for the love :)

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  12. Thank you for sharing your story. We're still trying to let go of guilt and figure out motherhood after 13 years! ;-)

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    1. Ha! Well seems like you guys are doing a great job at it. This motherhood thing is so much harder than marathons ;) XO!

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  13. Hi Erica, thank you for sharing your story! I am sbout 41 weeks now and scheduled to be induced this weekend... def. not ideal but trying to go with the flow! I am glad you and your family are healhty and happey :)

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    1. Sarah, how exciting! I hope your delivery goes well and wish you all the best. And I hope that my story didn't worry you in any way. There were so many circumstances to my c-section and post infection that I didn't go into because the post would've be longer than War & Peace ;) But no matter how you deliver, you'll end up with a beautiful little one which is the best feeling in the world! Good luck!!!

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